If, like me, you've spent your winter lounging about in front of a roaring fire with a glass of wine and a good book, then this gentle, easy, 2 hour hike into the Takitimu ranges is the perfect way to limber up for the start of some serious summer tramping.
Take the Mossburn-Otautau road to the start of Dunrobin Road, about 10kms southwest of Mossburn. A further 20kms or so up Dunrobin Road brings you to Pleasant Creek, and the start of the track to the Aparima Hut. There is room for off-road parking beside the bridge, and the track itself is clearly signposted.
Crossing the first paddock brings you to a stile which is VERY wobbly! Trying to cross it with a pack caused some hilarity as well as some serious cursing amongst our party. Once over this, follow the fenceline along the true right of the Aparima River, where there is a well-marked trail. Amble along this for 10 minutes or so until it leads you into some serious matagouri scrub - vicious stuff! There's really no alternative but to persevere - sticking to the river brings you to some deep water holes which look pretty difficult to cross, even in times of little rainfall.
After about half an hour, you reach one of the nicest little camping spots I've seen for ages! A soft, grassy flat beside the tranquil Aparima River, with a superb swimming hole. Crossing the flat, you enter into some welcome beech forest, which ambles alongside the river for a while before it emerges onto an open tussock plain. Here's where you start to get a sense of the vastness of this country - huge sparse plains stretching up to the barren Takitimu ranges. Wonderful stuff.
This area is very much like a moonscape, with dark, lichen-covered rocks dotting the landscape. The track is not particularly well marked around this part, and we wandered off it a couple of times, but you'd be hard-pressed to get lost around here as it's so open.
After wandering across this area for a short time, you meet up with a 4-wheel drive track, and from here it's only about half an hour to the hut. Again, very easy traveling. After a while you come to a fork in the track, and it's at this point you can see the hut perched up on a river terrace ahead of you. Although it seems logical to take the right-hand lower track, don't! We lurched about in some boggy ground for about half an hour before we came to the conclusion we'd taken another wrong turn. Keep to the main road and after a couple of minutes you'll come to a large DOC sign pointing you to the hut.
Crossing the now bustling Aparima River by a swingbridge, it's only another few minutes to the Aparima Hut. Sitting high up on the terrace, this is a relatively new hut with 8 good bunks, some good books, a great fire, and even some pillows! The outlook from the hut is a bit disappointing, but it's still a welcome respite if you've been traveling in sunshine. There's a nice verandah for slipping off your boots and relaxing, but naturally enough within seconds of arriving we were engulfed by clouds of sandflies. Plenty of repellant required!
After dinner, we wandered up to a hillock overlooking the hut, and sat in comfortable silence, drinking in the vastness of the scenery, a quiet beer, and listening to the stillness of the warm night. A nice finish to a peaceful, easy day.
A good guide to this area is Nick Groves' South Island Weekend Tramps.